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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On YouTube, Iranian Minister Says ‘Join Us’ in Ending Crisis

A video statement was posted on the Iranian minister’s YouTube account on Tuesday.

As soft piano music plays in the background, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, strides through a vast, elegant hallway, skips down carpeted steps and pushes through glass-paneled doors. Then, seated, he looks directly at a video camera and asks: “What is dignity? What is respect? Are they negotiable? Is there a price tag?”

He adds: “Imagine being told that you cannot do what everyone else is doing â€" what everyone else is allowed to do. Will you back down? Would you relent? Or would you stand your ground?”

Those are scenes from the opening segment of a new video posted on a Youtube account listed under Mr. Zarif’s name on Tuesday: a slick five-minute production that lays out little new about Iran’s position on its right to pursue nuclear energy but which is notable for its timing and context.

On Wednesday, a third round of talks are set to resume in Geneva between Iran and six world powers. Western diplomats hope to complete an accord that would halt Iran’s nuclear efforts for six months while negotiators pursue a more comprehensive agreement that would ensure that Tehran’s program is solely for civilian purposes, as my colleague Michael R. Gordon reported last week.

In recent weeks, Mr. Zarif has repeatedly sought to set the tone and context of the meetings through videos, television appearances, and his Twitter account, a reflection of his increasing use of social media to reach out to the West. Mr. Zarif spoke in English in the video on Tuesday, with subtitles in Farsi, French, Turkish and Arabic in four other versions, but there were reminders that the authorities continue to block access to YouTube to citizens inside Iran.

Mr. Zarif is Iran’s chief negotiator in the talks with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council along with Germany, known as the P5+1. He has used Twitter diplomacy during the previous rounds of negotiations as a way to answer critics or set the record. The latest round of talks are set to start on Wednesday and will continue at least through Friday.

In the video released on Tuesday, Mr. Zarif did not mention the nuclear talks directly, but he repeated that the dignity of Iranians needed to be respected and decisions should not be imposed on the country. He continued, in part:

For us Iranians, nuclear energy is not about joining a club or threatening others. Nuclear energy is about a leap, a jump toward deciding our own destiny, rather than allowing others to decide for us. For us, nuclear energy is about securing the future of our children, about diversifying our economy, about stopping the burning of our oil, and about generating clean power.

It’s about (the) Iranian nation moving forward as an equal in a new realm defined by peace, by prosperity, by progress.

What would you do if you were told this is not an option. Would you back down?

Rights are not granted and since they are not granted, they cannot be seized. This does not mean that we have hit a dead end. There is a way forward, a constructive path toward determining our destiny, to advance, to make progress, to secure peace, to go forward. The choice is not submission or confrontation.

This past summer our people chose constructive engagement through the ballot box, and through this they gave the world a historic opportunity to change course. To seize this unique opportunity we need to accept equal footing and choose a path based on mutual respect and recognition of the dignity of all peoples, and more so on the recognition that no power, however strong, can determine the fate of others. This is no longer an option.

Join us in ending an unnecessary crisis and opening new horizons. My name is Javad Zarif, and this is Iran’s message.